Friday, January 4, 2013

Favorite Things 2012

I know I am super behind this year. It’s 100% the fault of studying like a maniac so I pass my PHR exam. So, before it’s already February, I present the third annual, Favorite Things! Year One. Year Two.

A list of some things that made me happiest all year long:
1. Exercise
After my first (and probably last) half marathon

In 2012 I ran my first 10k and my first half marathon. Since December 2011, I clocked-in at the gym 163 times. And, that doesn't include the hours I spent running outside, using the elliptical at my old apartment complex, or playing kickball or volleyball. To track my various workouts, I’ve been using Fitocracy for a little over a year. I have 226 recorded workouts since 12/27/11. Some of my favorite classes at 24 Hour were Natasha’s Power Sculpt and Athletic Training and anything taught by Tio. Goals for 2013 are completing my first triathlon and clocking-in at 24 Hour more than 163 times.

2. Larabars
Chris kept up with the Paleo diet for most of 2012. One of my favorite discoveries from this change in diet was Larabars. Unlike Luna or Cliff Bars, most Larabar flavors are made up of entirely fruits and nuts. Because the ingredients are so simple, I tried to make my own. I mixed nuts and dried fruit in the food processor, shaped them into bars, and put them in the fridge. Yeah, no. It about killed my hand-me-down food processor. So, I'll stick to buying them at Sam’s for <$1 each, or when they’re on sale at Sprouts or HEB. I think they make great breakfasts.

3. Favorite Beers

I thought I could have drank the Alaskan White all year. But since the weather changed this fall, I've been on a serious porter/stout kick. Sometime around Thanksgiving, Real Ale's Coffee Porter came into my life.
Things haven’t been the same since. One other beer worth mentioning is New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Imperial Coffee Chocolate Stout.
Do not drink the entire bottle yourself, it is quite strong. Share it and savor it.

4. Music
I know I'm not the only person who thinks there were really only three songs for most of 2012. Call Me Maybe, Somebody I Used to Know, and We are Young. Despite my love/hate relationship with those pop hits, this year I came to love Dave's new album and a plethora of other bands that all sound pretty much the same.
I liked them all, and got to see many of them at ACL Fest.

5. Hot Tea
Another change in my diet has been drinking lots more hot tea. I’ll drink something black and caffeinated in the afternoons at work, or something herbal and caffeine-free after dinner and before bed. It’s especially perfect when it’s 45 degrees in the house. (We try not to use our heater very much, and the last two weeks of cold weather are not helping our electricity bill).

6. Favorite Books from the Library
The library became one of my closest friends this year. The wait list was well worth it for these page-turners.
Often compared to Eat Pray Love, Wild is an autobiographical story of a 20 something woman hiking the Pacific Coast Trail (from California to the Oregon/Washington coast). It's a lot grittier than Eat Pray Love, but certainly has similar themes.
Although Amazon reviewers give it only 3 stars, Swamplandia! tied for the Pulitzer this year. About a young girl and her family of alligator wrestlers, it first reminded me of Julie of the Wolves. Which I hated. However, I think my age has made me more tolerant, and I thought that the Russell's story was fascinating. Her life is very different from mine, not to mention that she's only 31.
Probably my overall favorite of the year. The Night Circus is nuts. And when putting this post together I discovered that the movie rights have been sold. Visually, this book was amazing, so I can hardly wait to see what the producers of the Harry Potter series do with the movie.

7. Eco Vessel Water Bottle
The greatest water bottle invented, ever. I got my Eco Vessel 25-oz stainless steal filtration bottle for free from Dice, a recruiting vendor we don't even work with anymore. It keeps your water cold for hours. However, do not use it for anything other than water. Nate learned that the hard way, after he used the one I got him for his birthday to carry hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps to Trail of Lights. After countless washes, it still smells like peppermint. I highly recommend this for any water bottle connoisseurs out there.

8. Favorite TV shows
This year they were Game of Thrones, Gilmore Girls, and Downton Abby. Initially, I wasn't sure if I’d like GOT, as I’d heard it’s very sexual and very violent. And, while I don’t think all the nudity is necessary, the violence doesn't bother me, and the plot is thrilling. Season 3 starts in March, and it can’t get here any sooner! Gilmore Girls will always be one of my favorites, and I rewatched it for a series and a half throughout 2012. Downton, I adore. It’s beautifully shot and the character development is fantastic. I definitely recommend that one. The US premiere of season 3 is in January (it’s already aired in the UK). Goals for 2013 are finishing The Sopranos, Homeland, Bunheads, and maybe Breaking Bad.

9. Pop Culture Happy Hour
I’ve mentioned it before, but NPR’s podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour has been such a wonderful addition to my week. Four intelligent, well-spoken, and funny employees produce a weekly podcast covering current events, media classics, and other entertainment-related topics. I listen to it while on the elliptical, and it really does make a 45 minute workout fly by.

10. Canada Trip
This July, Chris and I had the privilege of exploring Calgary and the Canadian Rockies. Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper National Park are some of the most naturally beautiful places I've ever seen.

11. My Bike!
Probably, seriously, my most favorite purchase of the year. I bought a 25'' 2011 Fuji Crosstown in October. My only regret is not buying it sooner.

12. Amazon Prime
For $79 a year you get free 2 day shipping on all “Prime Eligible” purchases (almost everything). I really don’t like shopping, and Amazon definitely saves the day for buying tons of useful items. You can read lots of of user reviews before you buy too. These bad boys arrived in the mail for me today. Plus, you have unlimited access to live stream hundreds of movies and TV shows. They have tons of classics! I've recently reinstated an abandoned goal from high school to watch all the Academy Award winners. Amazon Prime has tons of them! Pretty great.

Although it's probably obvious, I feel I should mention that nobody is paying me to talk about any of these products. Also, it's not like there were only 12 items making me happy during 2012. I didn't even mention the JCrew starfish earrings Natalie got me last Christmas, my Brooks running shoes, or the amazing deals I snagged at TJ Maxx and Ross. Tons of things were my favorites in 2012, but I cannot blog about everything. So, three cheers to a successful 2012 and an even better 2013. Happy New Year everybody.

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